New York City FC-Union Preview
Jim Curtin shut down any talk of a possible end-of-season switch to FC Cincinnati ahead of Philadelphia Union's Eastern Conference Final showdown with New York City FC.
Talk in the days leading up to Sunday's match have been dominated by claims that Cincinnati are lining up a move for Curtin, who has spent seven years as Union head coach.
However, Curtin remains committed to Philadelphia, who finished second in the regular season and have already eliminated New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC in the playoffs.
"I have two years left on my Union contract. This is where I'm going to be," he said when asked about his future beyond this month.
While that can be considered good news for the Union, Curtin also revealed that the team were unable to train on Thursday due to COVID-19 protocols.
Curtin did not reveal which players, if any, will miss the match at Subaru Park, but he expects any players drafted into the side to step up regardless.
"I can't speak on the health of certain individual players," he said. "We look forward to the challenge. We will have a next-man-up mentality.
"If history has shown us anything, a group of men or women with nothing to lose can often be the most dangerous."
Like their opponents, City are competing in their first Conference Final after seeing off Supporters' Shield winners New England Revolution on penalties in the last round.
Having also defeated Atlanta United FC, head coach Ronny Deila has praised the spirit showed by his side to make it this far.
"We have dealt with a lot of things going against us," Deila said. "It says something about this group again.
"The togetherness and the character, the leadership that we have talked about last year, it's there now - and the belief, you can see.
"There are so many things going against us the last two years. To finally get what we deserve, that's a good feeling."
Philadelphia Union - Kacper Przybylko
Przybylko has scored 12 goals for the Union this season but was kept quiet by the Red Bulls and Nashville, firing a blank against both sides. In fact, only two of Philadelphia's nine postseason goals have come via strikers, the most recent of those being scored by Cory Burke against NYCFC in 2018.
New York City FC - Maxi Moralez
Moralez has set up a goal in his last four games and is one short of tying the club's all-time record for assists in successive matches. The 34-year-old has scored three times and assisted seven more in 10 previous meetings with Philadelphia, which is the most of any NYCFC player.
- This will be the second postseason meeting between the sides, with NYCFC winning 3-1 at home in the First Round in 2018, the only time NYCFC had progressed in the playoffs before this season. Three of the four goalscorers (Maxi Moralez (also two assists) and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi for NYCFC, Cory Burke for Philadelphia) will be available for Sunday's match.
- Either Philadelphia or New York City FC will become the 17th team to reach MLS Cup on Sunday, with both teams appearing in their first Conference Final.
- New York City, like the Union, needed a penalty shoot-out in the Conference Semi-finals to advance to this stage. Since MLS went to the traditional shoot-out in the playoffs, only two teams have faced multiple shoot-outs in a single postseason: New England, who won the first and lost the second in 2006 and Real Salt Lake, who won both in 2009.
- After losing the first meeting this season 2-0 at home on May 1, the Union are unbeaten in two straight against NYCFC (W1 D1). This marks only the second time Philadelphia have avoided defeat in consecutive matches against NYCFC, also doing so in April 2015 (W1 D1).
- The Union have lost only one home MLS match since their 2-0 loss to NYCFC on May 1 (W12 D4, incl. playoffs). NYCFC are the last visiting team to score twice in MLS play at Subaru Park as the Union have allowed just seven goals in their last 17 home games.
Updated December 3, 2021